PhD Candidate Tracks Rise of Peer-to-peer Online Lending in China
“Welcome from Prestigious American University Bryan Stroube to share his expert knowledge.”
This was the banner that greeted 2015 PhD candidate, Bryan Stroube, as he arrived at a school in rural China, three hours by train from where he was based in Beijing.
He had accepted the invitation to visit the school from a contact, thinking that it would be good to get out of the city for awhile. When he received his first host itinerary for the weekend, he knew that expectations were high. Now that he was approaching the school, with hundreds of children and parents from the community already seated and waiting to hear him speak, he knew that he was in for more than he’d bargained for. It was summer of 2013, and Stroube was in China researching microfinance organizations as a Fulbright Fellow.
It had all started several years earlier. Stroube was completing a master’s in economics at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. With a strong interest in all things technology and computer programming, he’d come across Kiva, one of the first such microfinance organizations, shortly after it started in 2005. He was hooked. “It was a hybrid organization," he said. "There were charitable elements, but it was market oriented – with lending and payback. The concept filled an interesting organizational space.”
Choosing the PhD
After returning to the U.S. in 2007 and spending two years in Chicago with ZS Associates, Stroube came to the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business in 2009 to do his PhD and pursue his interests in microfinance further. “The timing seemed right – public views towards both traditional lending and non-profits were shifting considerably,” said Stroube. He wanted to study how peer-to-peer online lending organizations function, and what the implications were for managers and entrepreneurs.
Smith’s program in particular had caught Stroube’s eye in his PhD search. “Not only was the management and organization department well regarded, but there was a diverse, inter-disciplinary approach incorporating such fields as political science and business history, along with economics, sociology and psychology.”
You might also say that Stroube was destined to be a Terp. While he completed his bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering and English at Purdue University, both his mother and father are University of Maryland alums: Katherine Stroube received her bachelor’s and master’s in ’82 and ’87 in the nuclear engineering program and Bill (William) Stroube received his MBA in 1986 while working at the Food and Drug Administration.
Back at Smith
Stroube is now back in College Park following the completion of his Fulbright. He had crafted the year-long fellowship to explore his research topic with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences to build on the interests he’d developed while first living in China. While his rural field research had been difficult, he came across a more important finding: online peer-to-peer lending in China is booming far beyond social development organizations such as Kiva and Muhammad Yunus’ Grameen Bank. Many peer organizations are starting up to fill a clear gap in the lending market – giving small enterprises access to capital.
Stroube is now in the process of forming his dissertation committee and will be writing up his thesis proposal in the spring.
- Andrew Kneale, MBA Candidate 2015, Office of Marketing Communications